April 7th, 2014 by Gail









The old dog made the effort to get up when he heard the footsteps approach his kennel yard.  His hearing, like his arthritic joints, had deteriorated with age so it wasn’t until the footsteps were almost upon him that he had recognized his master’s tread, and by the time he had sneaked painfully upright and manoeuvred a first tentative wag of his tattered tail, the footsteps had passed.  Nevertheless, he waited patiently by the gate, pitted nose sniffing the much loved master-smell and cataract-clouded eyes gazing hopefully in the direction of the fading footfalls.

Finally his patience was rewarded – the smell grew stronger, the footsteps louder and at last his eyes focused on the centre of his universe.  But the reward was brief – an affectionate pat on the head and a simple “G’day old fella”, accompanied the clatter of his bowl of morning food being briskly deposited on the ground.  He tried a couple more rheumatic wags, but all he got was “see you when we get back – look after things” as the kennelyard gate banged shut.

The old dog was restless.  he approached his food with the usual disinterest of age, but the frantic activity and tension enveloping the entire kennel complex communicated itself to him and after a perfunctory sniff, he turned from the untouched offering and slowly traversed the short space to his sun bench.  Heaving himself up, he settled down to assimilate the emotion-charged atmosphere.

From deep within the recesses of memory came a shadowy recollection of similar firecracker charged days.  They were rare and long between but slowly the memory gained clarity and the old dog drifted comfortably into the reverie of recollection.

The haze outlines gained form and substance, until the old dog was young again, his fiery coat gleaming after interminable hours of patient grooming.  Once more he reclined regally on his emerald-green benching rug, waiting his turn in the showing.  he remembered the people who had walked slowly down the aisles of benched aristocrats, stopping spasmodically to pat and admire or to read a name or lineage on the showcard above the kennel.  His pulse quickened at th4e surge of adrenalin released as he once more stepped into the marshalling area, and he quivered with excitement while the last quick brush strokes settled his already perfect coat.   Then again he was leading the proud parade onto the manicured lawn of the ring, head up, tail gliding in perfect harmony with every step of his seven-foot gait.  His master’s presence was beside him, but he had no need of the fine leather leash to guide him, for countless hours of practice and training had molded dog and master into a perfect union and the leash had become the showring umbilical cord.  Round they went at a spanking pace, leading the 60 strong class, then alone in a diagonal, corner, straight figure seven, finishing with a flourish in front of the Judge.

Familiar hands lifted his front legs into the show stance, and from the habit borne of long experience he adjusted his hind legs, tail and head to show himself to best advantage, then braced himself for the onslaught of strange, knowing hands running over his length.

Then again through the familiar pattern of gait, stand, gait, stand until at last the cacophony of noise from the spectators and the quick excited hug from his master told him they had won again.  Then came the intangible assortment of memory-sounds.  Bright ribbons rustling as small hammers fixed them in place around the kennel-bench.  The oohs and aahs of admirers, the authoritative sounds of other master-like voices discussing  him, the strangely alarming sound of corks popping.

Then the ring again, another day, less dogs, more tension.  Time.  He gaited, he stood, he felt the strange hands.  Then finally, noise, hugs, clapping, cheering in a total whirlwind explosion.  And his master’s voice, “You did it, old boy, you did it.  You won the Royal.  You’re the best dog in the show”.

Night.  Footsteps sounded near the old dog’s kennel.  His master’s voice was calling him.  “Look, old fella, we did it, we won the Royal.  Your Grandson won the Royal”.

But the old dog didn’t hear.  His retirement was complete.












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